Letter to NST Regarding “Clouded by Obscurantism” article
by Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin
I refer to the article headlined “Clouded by Obscurantism” authored by Rose Ismail and Aniza Damis published in The New Sunday Times dated 25th May 2003 which clearly begs a response to address some of the issues which they have brought forth. I will not labour on the many peripheral issues which they have highlighted. It will only serve to distract our focus from the “blasphemous acts” committed by Amina Wadud and which the organisers initially refused any forum for rebuttal.
The Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him ) has said in an authentic Hadith “If you see any wrongful act, you must first correct it with your hand, failing to do so with your speech, failing to do so with your hearts and that is the lowest state of iman ( belief )”
On the 20th May 2003, delegates attending the International Muslim Leaders Consultation ( IMLC ) on HIV/AIDS were witness to a public and inflammatory villification of the teachings of the Quran by Amina Wadud when she presented her paper ” Vulnerabilities HIV and AIDS”. The Muslim leaders who witnessed this despicable and wanton act requested the organisers to allow time and space to address the many anti-Quranic tone promulgated by Amina Wadud. This request was outrightly refused by the organisers and hence the walkout by the many delegates.
There are numerous passages in her paper which are blasphemous in spirit and substance and one does not require to be a scholar of Islamic studies to recognize and unravel its intent. As a matter of fact, a youth participating in the conference was very much disturbed and outraged by her paper that he lifted just one controversial passage and published his personal rebuttal of its contents. I will attempt to quote a few of the passages from her written text in order to illustrate the vile and vicious nature of her attacks on the Quran.
On page four she write s “Ultimately, the solutions to the problems of AIDS will not be limited to victims in the particular sub-groups of my examination. However, I am interested in how these two groups demonstrate how empty religious platitudes are in addressing the problem and how, even when those responses are based on the Quran and Sunnah they are ineffective to resolve the problem”.
Not only does she allege that Islam does not have a response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic but she furthers adds that Islam exacerbates its spread when she writes on page three “In effect, what I present here emphasizes the ways that Islam and Muslims exacerbates the spread of AIDS and that a traditional theological response can never cure AIDS”
The Quran is a divine revelation from Allah which has emancipated women and elevated her to a pedestal unprecedented in the history of humanity. Yet Amina Wadud audaciously took the extreme liberty to condemn the Quran as being gender bias when she writes on page eight “Furthermore, the Quran itself, as well as the Shariah is founded upon male sexual experience. I have looked elsewhere at how the Quran seems to affirm masculine pleasure and experience ( see Sisters in Islam workshop on Agency and Interpretation ). In the Quran I point to three specific incidents that give a cross section of male sexuality and fantasies without ever responding in an equivalent manner to women and women’s sexuality”.
Her venomous attacks on the Quran continues when she writes on page nine “Not only do no equivalent articulation exists in the Quran about women’s sexual satisfaction, the Quran refers to post-menopausal women as being “beyond want” despite ample evidence to the contrary”.
Her statement is simply saying that Allah is wrong. How dare she say that Allah; the Omnipotent, the Omniscience, says “something” despite ample evidence to the “contrary”. How can Allah’s Words be questioned in such a discourteous (putting it mildly ) manner ? Why should Allah demean a woman; whom He created, in such a man ner ? And why should we worship him, if we have “ample evidence” negating words He speaks to us?
A closer examination of her writings would illustrate that she has read the Quranic passages out of context as well as translating them incorrectly from the original Arabic text. If she were aware of the exact Arabic translation of the verse as well as the exact context of its revelation she would not have been misguided. Then again, if any person making such a statement about Allah’s words were truly aware it was Allah saying to them, they would never have uttered such a statement in the first place!
The organisers; in particular the committee responsible for the detailed conference content and the selection of speakers, were unequivocally at fault for not reading through and vetting the contents of all the papers submitted for presentations. One of the members of the International Advisory Committee later informed the IMLC that they were not even given the papers beforehand for reading. Following this incident, two further papers were withdrawn from the conference proceedings due to their unIslamic undertones.
Her writings not only portray Islam as being oppressive to women but also contends them as sex object and tools for the pleasure of men. She writes on page five “In the face of this, the vast majority of Muslim wives, those with gentle husbands, husbands of polygyny, open or secret, husbands of violence and abuse, upright husbands of moral standing and husbands of AIDS, open their legs to their men as they are not only expected, but commanded to do by that which is most popularly understood as “Islam”. Women turn towards men who have contracted AIDS and open their legs to their own death and destruction”. Her public display of hostility and vulgarity is quite unbecoming of a woman let alone a Muslim woman.
In her speech, she made reference to her book “Quran and Women : Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s perspective” published in 1999. This book was gazetted as Haram by Jab atan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia ( JAKIM ) in 2001 and was banned from circulation in the country by the Home Affairs Ministry. Hence, Amina Wadud and her likes are no stranger to the religious fraternity in Malaysia who are well informed of her controversial and often blasphemous ideas and writings.
It seems only yesterday that she was awakened to the HIV/AIDS pandemic when she admitted in her paper on page two “In 2002, I had my first encounter with constructive organisational level efforts to respond to the AIDS epidemic at a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya”. She adds on page three “My experience at this WCRP ( World Conference on Religion and Peace ) meeting was important not only as a context for learning but also as it sparked my interest in the work needed in the context of Islam and Muslim with AIDS.” Yet she was hailed in the conference by some quarters as being a distinguished and seasoned authority in the HIV/AIDS work. Far from it, she is virtually a “baby” in this Jihad against the scourges of HIV/AIDS. If anything her perverted theology has only attempted to derail us from our conference objective which is “Creating a Caring Ummah : Transforming the Response.”
There are many other similar anti-Quranic passages in her paper but praise to Almighty Allah, our Muslim leaders in the Consultation responded swiftly and responsibly to this blasphemous attack on Islam which finally culminated in the withdrawal of her paper from the conference proceedings. This uncalled for distraction to the IMLC is quite clearly an echo of the incessant and unethical agenda to demonise Islam and the Muslims.
Lest we be clouded by the hostility, vulgarity and impunity of the incident, we must take solace in the brilliant Muqaddimah keynote address presented by Prof . Mohd. Kamal Hassan which set the Islamic agenda of the congress and which to me represent the benchmark for any resolutions forthcoming from this IMLC. He said “We are happy to know that an AIDS education programme through the local mosque leaders (i mams) in Uganda was undertaken by the Islamic Medical Association of Uganda ( IMAU ) in 1992. This FAEPTI Project involved the participation and mobilization of imams from 850 mosques and training of 6,800 community volunteers who made personal visits to 102,000 houses in the 1992-1997 period. Workshops were organized to assist imams and volunteers to include information about AIDS in Uganda and the importance of prevention in religious lectures and Friday sermons. Quranic verses which deal with sexual ethics and integrity were widely used in the educational campaigns and counseling sessions aimed at behaviour modification among the high risk individuals of the community. He adds “We endorse the five basic components of the strategy for the Islamic approach to HIV/AIDS prevention and caring for people who are very sick :
i. Utilising messages from the Quran and Hadith
ii. Chanelling efforts through Imams and mosques
iii. Providing the community with technical assistance and logistical support
iv. Working with allies for resource mobilisation
v. Maintaining accountability to our communities.
Prof. Mohd. Kamal Hassan beautifully summed up the desirable and authentic image of Islam as the Islam of the Quran and Sunnah and the Rightly Guided Caliphs when he quoted Sheikh Yusuf Al Qardawi ;
“It is Islam of easiness not difficulty, glad tidings not repulsion, kindness not violence, familiarisation not aversion, tolerance not fanaticism, essence not appearance, work not controversy, giving not pretension, creativity not imitation, renewal not stagnation, discipline not looseness and moderation not excessiveness nor negligence.
It is Islam which is founded on a creed whose spirit is monotheism, a worship whose spirit is sincerity, a morality whose spirit is benevolence, a Shariah whose spirit is justice, a bond whose spirit is brotherhood, and the fruit of all this is a civilization whose spirit is balance and integrity”
Despite the distractions and contro versies , the Muslim leaders at the IMLC in Kuala Lumpur stood steadfastly to the noble objectives of the Consultation. They consistently persevered with the deliberations and by the Grace of Allah were able to produce a blueprint of action, cherishing the theme of the Consultation “Creating a Caring Ummah : Transforming the Response”. The action plan as announced by Dr. Majid Kagimu ( Chairman of the First IMLC in Kampala, Uganda ) at the conclusion of the Second IMLC was a reaffirmation and continuation of the Jihad on AIDS as resolved in Kampala in 2001.
We beseech Allah for his blessings in this arduous and awesome endeavour and we seek His forgiveness for our shortcomings. May this caring ummah shoulder unreservedly this Jihad on HIV/AIDS and transform her response to one founded on mercy ( Rahmah ); forgiveness ( Maghfirah ); benevolence ( Ihsan ); brotherhood ( Ukhuwah ); healing ( Syifaa’ ) and belief in the hereafter ( Iman bil Akhirah )
Wallahu alam; Allah knows best.
Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin